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E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates

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  • Amy Finkelstein

Abstract

This paper tests the hypothesis that the salience of a tax system affects equilibrium tax rates. To do this, I analyze how toll rates change after toll facilities adopt electronic toll collection. Unlike manual toll collection, in which the driver must hand over cash at the toll collection plaza, electronic toll collection automatically debits the toll amount as the car drives through the toll plaza, thereby plausibly decreasing the salience of the toll. I find robust evidence that toll rates increase following the adoption of electronic toll collection. My estimates suggest that, in steady state, toll rates are 20 to 40 percent higher than they would have been without electronic toll collection. Consistent with the hypothesis that decreased tax salience is responsible for the increase in toll rates, I also find evidence that the short run elasticity of driving with respect to the actual toll declines (in absolute value) following the adoption of electronic toll collection. I consider a variety of alternative explanations for these results and conclude that these are unlikely to be able to explain the findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 12924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12924 Note: PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gilbert, Ben & Graff Zivin, Joshua, 2014. "Dynamic salience with intermittent billing: Evidence from smart electricity meters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 176-190.
    2. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    3. Shan, Hui, 2010. "Property taxes and elderly mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 194-205, March.
    4. Almenberg, Johan & Karapetyan, Artashes, 2009. "Mental Accounting in the Housing Market," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 718, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 28 Aug 2010.
    5. Naihobe Gonzalez, "undated". "How Learning About One's Ability Affects Educational Investments: Evidence from the Advanced Placement Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 307d565f1bf14eb8808071847, Mathematica Policy Research.
    6. Gans, Joshua S. & Leigh, Andrew, 2009. "Born on the first of July: An (un)natural experiment in birth timing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 246-263, February.
    7. Gilbert Metcalf & David Weisbach, 2008. "The Design of a Carbon Tax," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0727, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    8. Joel Slemrod, 2010. "Old George Orwell Got It Backward: Some Thoughts on Behavioral Tax Economics," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 66(1), pages 15-33, March.
    9. Michael D. Grubb & Paul Oyer, 2008. "Who Benefits from Tax-Advantaged Employee Benefits?: Evidence from University Parking," NBER Working Papers 14062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. David Levinson & Andrew Odlyzko, 2007. "Too Expensive to Meter: The influence of transaction costs in transportation and communication," Working Papers 200802, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group, revised Feb 2007.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • R48 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government Pricing and Policy

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